• I know we’re still two days away and there were six games tonight, but Thursday feels like Christmas with Zion Williamson coming back. Adding him into an already exciting year of young players is like an injection of adrenaline in what is already one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory. Slates like tonight show off the young talent in guys like Darius Garland, Ja Morant, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell and the list goes on. . . There are people who are clamoring that some of these young studs are overrated and love pointing out weaknesses and crying “bust”. My reply to that is, why? Seeing people excel at this sport brings more fun and I like having fun. Let me take you through tonight’s action and if you’re as excited about hoops and Zion Williamson as I am, you’ll want to follow me on Twitter @HB_Nate because I’m going to be soaking in every minute of it. Oh and don’t be afraid to @ me for any fantasy or hoops related questions either.

    Lines of the Night

    Kyrie Irving, Brooklyn Nets- 32 points, five rebounds, 11 assists, two steals one block and five triples (12-for-19 FG, 5-for-6 FT)

    Irving has gone straight into first-round production since returning from his shoulder injury. The reporting and status of his injury is completely bizarre, but owners who have held on patiently are being rewarded.

    Ja Morant, Memphis Grizzlies – 26 points, five rebounds, eight assists, one steal, one block and three triples (10-for-11 FG, 3-for-3 FT)

    Morant is shooting at an absurd clip and the Grizzlies are in the playoff picture thanks to his play. We always preached patience with him, as he’s an easy lock for top-50 value to end the season.

    Devin Booker, Phoenix Suns – 39 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and two triples (12-for-23 FG, 13-for-13 FT)

    Booker is another guy whose shooting splits have dramatically improved and it’s great to see a young player take the leap.

    Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks – 37 points, nine rebounds, four assists, one block and three 3-pointers (12-for-17 Fg, 10-for-12 FT)

    It took Giannis 21 minutes to put up this line. Granted, he was playing against the Knicks, it’s absurd that he was able to do this. He did everything tonight and is the frontrunner for the MVP award.

    Add(s) of the Night

    Kevin Huerter, Atlanta Hawks – 23 points, 15 rebounds, eight assists, one steal and four triples

    Huerter is only owned in 61% of Yahoo! leagues and that number needs to climb into the 90s. He’s the third best player on the Hawks outside of Trae Young and John Collins and the team is a incubator for fantasy gold. He’s one of the best shooters in the league and the dimes and swipes aren’t an anomaly.

    Drop Zone

    Caris LeVert, Brooklyn Nets – It pains me to say this, as I’m a huge LeVert fan, but with Kyrie Irving back and Spencer Dinwiddie still starting, LeVert is the odd man out. He’s still part of the Nets’ future plans, but his stat set doesn’t do well in limited minutes and owners are going to have to make a tough choice here.

    Injuries

    Anthony Davis (gluteus maximus contusion) is hopeful to play in Wednesday’s game.

    Paul Millsap (left knee contusion) will sit Wednesday’s game against the Hornets.

    Victor Oladipo (right quad contusion) has his return date set on January 29th against the Bulls.

    Jamal Murray (back soreness) and Gary Harris (right adductor strain) are both questionable for Wednesday.

    Jayson Tatum (right knee soreness) is probable for Wednesday.

    Daniel Theis (right knee soreness) is questionable for Wednesday.

    Kristaps Porzingis (right knee soreness) is likely to return to action on Wednesday against the Kings.

    Marc Gasol (left hamstring strain) is probable to return on Wednesday.

    Domantas Sabonis (sore left knee) is questionable to return Wednesday.

    D.J. Augustin (sore left knee) is doubtful for Wednesday.

    Nerlens Noel will miss Wednesday’s game against the Raptors with a sprained left ankle.

    Nemanja Bjelica has a sprained right ankle, but is probable against the Mavs on Wednesday.

    Bogdan Bogdanovic is doubtful for Wednesday with a right ankle injury.

    Mario Hezonja has a lower back contusion and is questionable for Wednesday vs. the Rockets.

    Daniel Gafford (ankle), Chandler Hutchinson (shoulder), Luke Kornet (thumb), Ryan Arcidiacono (elbow), Lauri Markkanen (ankle) and Tomas Satoransky (ankle) are all probable for Wednesday’s game against the Wizards.

    Christian Wood (right knee soreness) is questionable for Wednesday’s tilt against the Celtics.

    Bruce Brown (right thumb sprain) will play against the Celtics Wednesday.

    Rajon Rondo (finger, hand) is out for Wednesday’s game against the Magic.

    Rundown

    NYK102 @ MIL 128

    I’m not buying in on any Bobby Portis stock. Julius Randle is on a major upswing right now, but it screams sell-high. R.J. Barrett as well, honestly I don’t want any part of any Knicks players unless it’s Mitchell Robinson, who needs to be freed from this prison immediately.

    Brook Lopez had a boring game, but this is what you like to see from him. He dominated the paint as usual and has been one of the best rim defenders throughout the year from the eye test and analytics as well. Hang on to him dearly. Eric Bledsoe had a mediocre game and for some reason, Bledsoe owners love panicking. Buy low if you can. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a stud. He’s going to win his second consecutive MVP if all else stands as the Bucks are thrashing every team that comes in their way. He just turned 25 years old last month.

    UTA 118 @ BKN 107

    The Jazz remain one of the hottest teams in the league thanks to Joe Ingles’ stellar play. Rudy Gobert holds down the fort as usual and integrating Mike Conley might actually throw a wrench in this hot streak. It looks like the team has figured out how to run things smoothly on offense with Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles distributing the ball as Bojan Bogdanovic is on a bit of a hot streak himself. There’s no doubt the ceiling of the Jazz is higher with Conley, but as of now, they really don’t need him. The All-Star Break should serve as a good reset point for them.

    Kyrie Irving returning caught me by surprise as his shoulder injury seemed much more serious. The Nets are in a gap year and Spencer Dinwiddie was balling, but it’s good to see Dinwiddie put up a solid line with Irving back. Dinwiddie was barely rosterable when the Nets were healthy at the beginning of the year, but he’s earned his starting spot with how well he’s played, which means Caris LeVert is now the odd man out. I’d wait a couple games to see how things pan out, but if there’s a hot free agent like Kevin Huerter, I’d move on to him immediately. LeVert doesn’t have much upside with Irving in play as he needs minutes near the 30s to be a standard league guy.

    PHX 110 @ ATL 123

    Aron Baynes is starting, but he logged 15 minutes compared to Deandre Ayton’s 33. Ayton is the guy to own here and he should start, but you know, Suns stuff. Baynes is a drop in all leagues as far as I’m concerned as he just doesn’t have the same force as he did when Ayton was out. Devin Booker’s best season continues to stand strong with each night as he’s shooting the lights out and although Mikal Bridges logged 33 minutes and put up a nice line, he still can’t be trusted, because you know, Suns stuff. It’s infuriating.

    Kevin Huerter isn’t talked about enough so I make sure to speak about him every chance I get. This guy is good and he deserves to be owned in all standard leagues. Trae Young did his usual high usage, low efficiency stuff and John Collins had a nice defensive game with three blocks. No, I’m not buying in on De’Andre Hunter or Cam Reddish at any point this season.

    HOU 110 @ MEM 121

    The Rockets are playing their veterans way too much and it leads to consistency in terms of fantasy output, so guys like P.J. Tucker are safe, even though his line was poor tonight. Clint Capela is dealing with some heel stuff and he played well tonight, but it’s definitely something to note. Ben McLemore has stolen Danuel House’s talent and I think you can make the swap between the two. I’m a huge Rockets fan and House apologist, so when I say you can move on from House to McLemore, it hurts, but it’s the truth. House is way too passive shooting the ball and his confidence has been up and down all year.

    Jaren Jackson Jr. reels in the cash counters as usual and if he ever bumps the rebounding numbers up, he’s going to hit that top-20 mark sooner rather than later. He has all of the tools. Brandon Clarke had a solid game and I honestly think he’ll end up as the better prospect than Jaren Jackson Jr. in reality, but we’re talking fantasy here. De’Anthony Melton logged 26 productive minutes and if he can work his way into a regular role with that amount, we’re talking top-60 upside. He’s already worth owning in all standard leagues as is.I’d hang onto Clarke if you have the luxury, because the second half of the season is primed for guys like him to get extra burn. The Grizzlies are so much better with him on the floor and I’ve been banging on this drum all year, talent always wins out in the end. Speaking of which, Ja Morant has been nothing short of spectacular. Please tune in on some Grizzlies games and watch this guy go to work. Look at these moves.

    DAL124 @ GSW 97

    Luke Doncic and Dwight Powell show. Powell is enjoying the extra burn with Kristaps Porzingis sidelined, but the Unicorn is expected to return him his knee injury next game so temper your expectations for Powell’s production.

    Everyone looked flat on the Warriors and Omari Spellman had a so-so night after lighting up lately, but should be held on in all leagues. He should start the rest of the way and the Warriors seem to be intrigued by his potential.

    CLE 103 @ LAC 128

    Cedi Osman is a guy I just can’t get behind. He played well, but I’d rather toss my hat at someone else on the wire who can do more than score. Collin Sexton is the new Andrew Wiggins and that’s okay if you need points. The guy I love to watch the most on the Cavs is Darius Garland. This guy is already better than Collin Sexton and should continue to widen the gap as the season goes on. He handed out 10 dimes and hit two triples which is already better than what Sexton will do in the next five games combined, so go grab him if he’s somehow still on your wire.

    Kawhi Leonard gave us a big game with Paul George sitting due to hamstring tightness, which also meant Lou Williams put up big numbers as well. I’ve been preaching sell high on Sweet Lou every time he puts up numbers like this, because they just aren’t consistent with George returning. You can get a lot off of his name value, so please do.

Fantasy News

  • Marcus Smart
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Marcus Smart said that he rolled his ankle in Thursday's game but he will be good to go on Saturday against Phoenix.

    Smart put up a heck of a line on Thursday with Jaylen Brown (thumb) sidelined with 24 points, five triples, four rebounds, two steals and one block in 36 minutes. We could expect as much on Saturday if not more with Brown ruled out and Kemba Walker (knee) popping up on the injury report as questionable.

    Source: Marc D'Amico on Twitter

  • Daniel Theis
    PF, Boston Celtics

    Daniel Theis (right knee soreness) will be available against the Suns on Saturday.

    Theis was still listed on the injury report (as probable) although he played in a back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday after missing Monday's game with the injury. Expect him to continue splitting all of the center minutes with Enes Kanter with Theis offering slightly more appeal because of his defensive stats.

    Source: Marc D'Amico on Twitter

  • Kemba Walker
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Kemba Walker (sore left knee) is questionable to play on Saturday against the Suns.

    This is the first we are hearing of the knee issue for Walker but hopefully it's nothing serious. With Jaylen Brown already ruled out, Marcus Smart could potentially see upwards of 40 minutes if Walker is ruled out as well. Semi Ojeleye and Brad Wanamaker would also see more minutes while Tremont Waters was called up from the G League for this game as well.

    Source: Jay King on Twitter

  • Tremont Waters
    PG, Boston Celtics

    Tremont Waters called up for Saturday's game against the Suns.

    Waters gets the call-up ahead of Carsen Edwards in this one and might play a few minutes with Jaylen Brown ruled out and Kemba Walker questionable. He has barely played for the Celtics this year but the 2019 second round pick is averaging 20.3 points, 7.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds, 2.3 steals and 3.0 triples in 20 G League games.

    Source: Jay King on Twitter

  • Jaylen Brown
    SG, Boston Celtics

    Jaylen Brown (right thumb sprain) will not play on Saturday versus Phoenix.

    Brown's scan showed no issues and he was close to playing so there is a decent chance he is back on Monday against the Lakers. He missed Thursday's game in which Marcus Smart filled in admirably with 24 points, five triples, four rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block so fire him up on Saturday as well.

    Source: Chris Forsberg on Twitter

  • Derrick Walton Jr.
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    The Clippers have called up Derrick Walton Jr and Terance Mann for Saturday's game against the Pelicans.

    Both players have played sporadically for the Clippers this season with Walton making 22 appearances at 9.8 minutes per and their 2019 second round pick Mann making only 12 appearances at 10.0 minutes per. This call-up makes sense with Paul George and Moe Harkless both hurt but neither player is expected to play much.

    Source: Lucas Hann on Twitter

  • Allonzo Trier
    PG, New York Knicks

    Allonzo Trier is staying positive despite reduced role.

    As an undrafted rookie last season, Trier averaged 22.8 minutes across 64 games. This season has a much different outlook as he has appeared in less than half the team's games so far at only 12.0 minutes. Interim coach Mike Miller praised Trier's professionalism this year, saying he is one the first ones in the gym every day as well as being focused and providing excitement on the bench, cheering on his teammates. Trier himself spoke about how he is trying to be the best teammate he can be, constantly trying to find holes in the defense to point out to his teammates Mitch Robinson and Marcus Morris and his team-first, continue to work hard every day attitude is a great sign that he will be ready when his number is called. He can be ignored for fantasy purposes in the meantime.

    Source: SNY

  • Jeff Teague
    PG, Atlanta Hawks

    Coach Lloyd Pierce said he expects new acquisitions Jeff Teague and Treveon Graham to be available on Saturday versus Pistons.

    Teague was looking like a solid drop candidate as a backup for the Wolves lately with his minutes down. That is unlikely to change with the Hawks as they are set with Kevin Huerter and Trae Young as big-minute starters but maybe you'd like to wait a game or two to make sure. Teague has maintained late-round value thanks to his early-season production mostly due to assists and free-throw percentage although his steals rate is down significantly from prior seasons. He would likely need an injury in front of him to get back on the standard league map.

    Source: Sarah K. Spencer on Twitter

  • Luka Doncic
    PG-SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Luka Doncic was sublime in Friday's 120-112 win over the Blazers, dropping 35 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, a steal and eight 3-pointers.

    Doncic had an answer for everything that the Blazers threw at him and even responded to some signature stretches out of Damian Lillard that put the game back in the balance. He did go 5-of-8 at the free throw line and has shot just .681 on his freebies over the last two weeks but we're hoping that will correct given the much larger sample of great shooting from earlier in the year. It's a joy to watch him play.

  • Tim Hardaway Jr.
    SF, Dallas Mavericks

    Tim Hardaway Jr. was feeling it on Friday night, helping the Mavs to a home win with 29 points, a steal and five 3-pointers.

    Hardaway goes on runs of big production but overall he's still outside the top-150 on the year. His poor shooting nights can ruin your week but THJ has started to level out to a certain extent, scoring in double digits in each of the last seven after a three-game absence. That sounds good, but only two of those games feature 20-plus, while four are games of 15 points or fewer. THJ is boom or bust and it's just a matter of getting on board at the right time.